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Lexington: Apollo plus 50

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The meaning of the race to the moon, half a century after the starting gun

FIFTY years ago, on May 25th 1961, President John Kennedy summoned a joint session of Congress and asked America to commit itself to the goal, before the decade was out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth. If it succeeded, he said, it would not be one man going to the moon—“it will be an entire nation”. A little over eight years later, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on to the lunar surface, the snowy images beamed down to Houston stamped an indelible memory on a generation of earthlings.

Some say that Kennedy conceived of the race to the moon principally to recover from the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs. John Logsdon, the doyen of American space studies, takes a more generous view in his new book (“John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon”, Palgrave Macmillan). Kennedy was not especially interested in space, and said as much in private. But after the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit he believed it to be vital for America to take on and beat the Soviets at something very hard. The moon fitted this need like a glove. Planting a man on its surface required no big technological innovations, says Mr Logsdon, “just very expensive mastery over nature using the scientific and technological knowledge available in 1961”. ...

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创建时间: 2011-05-19
更新时间: 2011-06-02
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书集: The Economist: Full print edition
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